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part three of the opinion is admittedly pure digittive and inconsistent with the earlier argument in the opinion that the word, quote, "people" unquote, used in the second amendment has the same meaning when used in other provisions of the constitution. on page 581 of the opinion, confidently asserts that the term, quote "unambiguously" refers to all members of the community, not unspecifieded subset," unquote. that describes the persons pecked by the first amendment because flops and the mentally ill have the same right to worship as they please as do law-abiding citizens, and no citizen need obtain a license to
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burdens of the office of presidency which other presidents have commented on. >> hello. welcome to the afternoon panel -- second afternoon panel on the cuban missile crisis. our panel will focus on kennedy and khrushchev and castro and decisions that led to decision making and we have an impressive array of talent here. i'm looking forward to this discussion. we have jim who is a professor at george washington university and author of a new fascinating book on vietnam. and also the author of a number
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of articles on the cuban missile crisis. we also have an author of a brand new book "six months in 1945" just out this week. next to me is an author of a number of books dealing with this topic. he's writing a biography of kennedy as president and brian is author of "castro's secrets." i encourage you to take out your ipad and order them right now. my name is mary. i am an expert on the end of the cold war, not on its most difficult moments. i look forward to hearing from experts on this time period and learning a lot about it. i would actually like to start with tim especially as you've done work on khrushchev and his motives going further back. perhaps you can tell us why the cuban missile crisis started. >> thanks, mary. before i do that, i just say that with john f. kennedy having
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introduced this panel, it's a hard act to follow. i also wanted to say i used to work for the national archives and we don't often congratulate the national archives when it does a superb job and those of you watching tv and in the audience who saw the video presentation, you should give a round of applause to tom putnam, director of the library and david, the head honcho of the entire archives and to stacy who is the curator, for that magnificent achievement. [ applause ] those of your tax dollars at work and you should be proud of it. all right. we have heard a lot about red lines. now that i don't work for the government i can talk about elections. we've heard a lot about red lines and establishing red lines and telling foreign countries you cannot step over this line and if you do, there will be a
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crisis. the reason that john f. kennedy had to respond forcefully to the deployment of nuclear missiles in cuba was that he had established a red line. in early september of 1962, he publicly said that the united states the installation of offensive weapons which everyone understood to be missiles on the island of cuba. john f. kennedy when you look at hiss h him as a president, wanted to keep us away from the brink of war versus close to it. most policies were designed to push the nuclear threshold away. why would he draw a red line that would actually make it likely that there might be a nuclear confrontation. he did it because he thought the soviets weren't going to do it. he used a back channel to speak with the soviet leadership and had said, look, you know, i have
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heard rumors that there will be missiles in cuba. we assume you're not doing that because you know what the consequencie ins will be. the soviets mounted a fine deception campaign said we would never put missiles in cuba thinking they would never put missiles in cuba or that at least his public statement would deter them from any future effort to do so he goes public in early september. that's a big problem for him. there's a midterm election in 1962. john f. kennedy is having a hard time pushing his legislative agenda. the democratic party was two parties. a southern party and northern liberal party. that party did not work well together. he wanted more kennedy liberals and progressives to be elected. the gop was taking advantage of the cuban issue. kennedy is now out and he's out on a limb and that's when he finds out that the soviets have
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put missiles in cuba. no choice to react strongly. people would say mr. president didn't you just say that you would not count instances. not only did he react for midterm election reasons but he had to react for alliance reasons. a his allies would wonder about his guarantees. how would the soviets react if after public ply saying he wouldn't accept those things, privately he did. it's a lesson for other presidents too. that's the dilemma for john kennedy. the dilemma for khrushchev is that he was in a box of his own. his box was different. he had basically decided to move ahead with one kind of missile over another meaning the soviet union was far weaker than the united states in 1961 and 1962.
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the american power that he saw around the world he felt threatened him and threatened his allies. cuba was one of them. as the soviet records have shown, it wasn't just about cuba. it was about a lot of things. not simply cuba. khrushchev wanted to find a quick fix to send a message to the united states to stop pushing us around and to be sure that the great symbol of the youth of the revolution cuba would not be taken over. so he is in a box and he sends the missiles and unfortunately he sends them secretly, lies to kennedy, and before you know it, they're at the brink of war. >> over to jim for more on this topic of khrushchev's motives. what inspired him to put missiles in cuba? >> as tim and his co-author have written at great length, it was several reasons. he was gambler as cia
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speculated. he saw an array of issues and thought sending missiles to cuba could solve all of them and elevate his own standings. it's not one or another reason. it's a whole series. as tim wrote, it's like the mystery is who done it? all of them. it was to deter an american invasion of cuba. it would save the cuba revolution. it was revealed in late 1961. it was a general offensive strategy in the cold war which he had spoken of in early 1962. it was showing up chinese who were accusing him personally and the soviets of weakness under the code name revisionism. this would show up on the chinese. the soviets could take action. it would also deal with the
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soviet economic plight. the agricultural program was not going well. this was way to gain security on the cheap. extend the nuclear umbrella and yet spend a lot less than sending untold numbers of soviet conventional forces to cuba. and there was a secret crisis in soviet cuban relations. the cubans were leaning a little bit toward the chinese. there was tension between castro and the pro-mosque cuban party and the soviet ambassador was on the verge of being evicted and reinforcing that alliance is something that send missiles would do. khrushchev had a series of motives. if americans find this out, they won't stand for it. >> i wonder if you could share what you think are the key moments in the narrative of the crisis but also address the larger question, is this really a story of individuals and their
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choices or greater historical forces at work and the individuals don't really have much to say in what's going on. >> the key moment in the crisis was of course today exactly today 50 years ago, which was the day that we discovered that khrushchev had been lying to us and had deployed nuclear weapons in cuba. the cia analyzes it the following day on the 15th. they don't tell kennedy immediately. the 3:00 a.m. moment actually does not come at 3:00 a.m. when they discover it but at 8:00 a.m. the next morning because they think that they'll give the president a good night sleep because he'll need it over the next two weeks. and then there's a week of private decision making, which was very important. the americans had the luxury of being able to think for a week about what they were going to do about this challenge. had they decided immediately as
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the president indicated in those remarks you heard, the decision would probably have been different. they would probably have attacked the missile sites. so there was a week of deciding what they would do about it. then the blockade is implemented and the peak of the crisis is on october 27th. it was called black saturday when many things started happening that nobody had really predicted and to answer the second part of your question, i think this is the drama of the missile crisis. it's the drama of individuals, leaders, khrushchev and kennedy who end up thinking in very similar terms. they both brought the world to the edge of the abyss and they both wanted to bring it back. they've got no interest in unleashing of war. in the meantime, they've unleashed all of the forces they cannot control. they do not fully control their
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military. neither kennedy or khrushchev fully appreciates what is happening in cuba. when i researched my book "one minute to midnight" what struck me is what was happening in the oval office and what was actually happening on the ground. there were many things that the president didn't understand. there is famous watergate question, what did the president know and when did he know it? the real question in the missile crisis was what didn't the president know and when didn't he know it? because there was so much things he didn't understand about what was happening in cuba. he thought that there were 8,000 soviet troops on the island. in fact, there were 42,000. he thought they were only armed with missiles that could reach the territory of the united states. in fact, they had '98 tactical nuclear missiles that would have been used to wipe out an american beachhead. he didn't know that a plane went missing over the soviet union.
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a u-2 spy plane on black saturday, the most dangerous day of the crisis. he didn't know there was a confrontation in the caribbean between the u.s. navy trying to bring up american soviet submarines that were armed with nuclear torpedoes. so there were all these things that the president didn't know. and similarly on the soviet side. kennedy, one of his great qualities, was that he had an instinctive knowledge of these things. he understood that things go wrong. and he derived that understanding from his experience in the military during world war ii. he liked to say the military always screws up. and that wasn't just an intellectual understanding. it was something that he had seen in the south pacific commanding a pt boat. it was that feeling that events are getting out of control that
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both he and khrushchev shared and that's what led them to bring the crisis to the end after the aharrowing events of black saturday. >> i would like to go to brian. in a previous life before he became an author and started teaching at the university of miami, was the cuban analyst for the cia and spent a great deal of his life thinking about what castro was doing and castro's motives. i would be interested in what you think cast rows motives were in this crisis and what he viewed as important points in its unfolding. >> mary, castro in one of his recollections about the crisis said that those days his gorilla instincts came back to the fore. he was in the mood of a warrior. he was militant. he was volatile. as khrushchev and kennedy were struggling during the last few
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days to resolve the crisis without resorting to war, fidel castro was stimulating military conflict. castro on the morning of october 27th, black saturday that we keep hearing about, the most dangerous day of the missile crisis, black saturday, fidel castro ordered all of his artillery to begin firing on american reconnaissance aircraft at sunrise that morning of black saturday. he said -- fidel castro said later on the record that war began in those moments. the commander of one of the generals of one of the soviet generals with the ex-ppeditiona force said the same thing. we all agreed that conflict -- military conflict began that
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morning. october 27th, black saturday, kennedy and khrushchev are desperately trying to bring this crisis to a peaceful end and castro is stoking the fan of conflict. he was so persuasive with his counterparts, that later that day, black saturday, the u-2 was shut down. we saw earlier in the video that the u-2 was shot down. it's interesting. nikita khrushchev believed until his death that fidel castro personally ordered the shootdown by a soviet ground to air missile site. khrushchev believed that castro had somehow been responsible for it himself. apparently he was not. it was a soviet commander that gave the order to fire the missile. it was in the spirit of joint
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conflict, soviet military and the cuban military were now essentially resisting the americans as one. the general said it was amazing that we were prepared. we soviet forces including himself, the general, we were prepared if the americans invaded, we were prepared to fight as hard as we could and then to go into the mountains of cuba and to fight to the death as guerrillas with our cuban comrades. a soviet general said that. arthur schlesinger summed it up nicely in something he wrote later. he said by black saturday, psychologically, fidel castro had come to dominate most of the soviet leadership in cuba. fidel was that percent persuasive and that mezmorizing
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that they were beginning to follow his bidding if not his actual orders. the general said we were inspired by fidel castro's revolutionary legitimacy. castro ordered the first shots that were fired on the american aircraft. he was partly responsible he later admitted -- he admitted he was partly responsible for the shoot down of the u-2 and wrote later that evening, black saturday, he wrote what is commonly known as armageddon letter to khrushchev. he went on the 26th, the night of the 26th, and was there until dawn on the 27th. he dictated a letter. it's called the armageddon letter. he recommended to khrushchev
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that if cuba is invaded by the american, khrushchev should not hesitate but to launch a preemptive nuclear attack on american targets. i don't think that castro was irrational. i think he was wildly ido sick karatic. it wasn't irrational. he knew the tactical nuclear weapons were on the ground in cuba. he really wanted those weapons. he later said had i been in charge and if the americans had invaded, i would have ordered the tactical nuclear weapons fired on american invading forces. so castro's letter of the armageddon recommending a first preemptive nuclear strike on the united states apparently assumed -- fidel castro apparently assumed when the american invade, nuclear weapons are going to be fired on the battlefield. the soviet union, the soviet
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general staff, should not wait after those weapons are fired for an american nuclear strategic nuclear assault on soviet military and civilian targets. that was fidel castro. he came to dominate the missile crisis during its final day. black saturday. >> jim wants to jump in on that point. >> yeah. thank you, brian, for bringing us to the most dangerous day in human history. saturday, october 27th. i can follow up precisely what happened when that armageddon letter reached nikita khrushchev. to do so, we don't have an empty chair. that idea was taken for this year. i would like to bring up on stage a missing witness that all of those wonderful, critical world history conferences in the late 1980s and late 1990s and that of course is nikita khrushchev. i'll read to you a passage not
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from the smuggled out memoirs of nikita khrushchev that were tape recorded after he was deposed in 1954 and published in the west many years later. the armageddon letter was disclosed in a volume of tape recorded memoirs in 1990. castro denied he asked for preemptive strike but it was later clear that you should unleash any means because his view was world war iii was starting. a few days later on october 30th, 1962, in the kremlin, nikita khrushchev gave his own version of what happened. the record i'm going to read to you from is from a document that was found in the archives in prague. it will be published this week for the first time along with
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850 pages of other nonamerican, non-u.s. translated documents from communist countries and other countries more than 24 around the world by the cold war history project. it's available for free on their website at woodrow wilson center in washington. khrushchev explained what happened to the leader. he said the following. he said in a letter fidel castro said we should be the first to start an atomic war? do you know what that would mean? we were come plpletely aghast. after all, if a war started, it would primarily be cuba that would vanish from the face of the earth. at the same time, it is clear that with the first strike, one cannot today knock the opponent out of the fight. goes on to say what would we gain if we ourselves started a war? after all, millions of people would die in our country too.
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can we even contemplate a thing like that? could we allow ourselves to threaten the world of socialism which was hard won by the working class only a person who has no idea what nuclear war means or who has been so blinded for instance by castro and by revolutionary passion could talk like that. we did not, of course, take up that proposal especially because we had a chance to avert war. and there were other passages that essentially make it seem that nikita khrushchev was the adult and fidel castro was the hot headed teenager who wanted the car keys and bully in a schoolyard fight. >> part of the reason castro acted this way -- by the way, that armageddon letter was the product of a four or five-hour session where they were drinking beer and eating cuban sausages. i don't know what it is about eating cuban sausages and drinking beer that leads you to
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the edge of nuclear war. >> was rum involved? >> it should have been rum but beer is what's remembered. cubans were not involved at all. they became angrier and angrier that the two superpowers would make a decision over their heads. so whatever castro's basic revolutionary, there is no doubt that the warrior castro comes out because he's really angry. he's been insulted. primarily by his ally, the soviet union. i was going to make a point about the two adults. it's very important to understand at least -- let me try to persuade you to understand. both kennedy and khrushchev wanted to demilitarize the cold war. both of them for different reasons felt the militaries had played too large a role in the
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cold war to that point. kennedy had a problem with the joint chiefs of staff. you saw some of that played out. this is a very deep problem. there is an assumption sometimes in american history that military leaders know best on what to do. i can't comment on the the current military leaders of the united states. i can tell you that if either dwight eisenhower or john f. kennedy followed advice of the joint chiefs of staff and their era, we would have had a nuclear war. american military leaders, these were men who fought in world war ii and in thinking they were prenuclear. this was the problem. they won a war. they were heroes. they won a conventional war and they applied the same logic to a nuclear era. one thing john kennedy said to his first presidential biographer, william manchester, i have to be a different kind of
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president even from dwight eisenhower. i'm the first nuclear aged president. he said in that little interview, there aren't total solutions. what he meant was in this era, if you seek a total solution, you may end up with a total cla calamity. you have to be ready to find common ground. kennedy felt that way. everything we know from the soviet union proves that khrushchev felt the same way. how fortunate were we those were the two people. how fortunate that they were the two people in charge at a moment like that in u.s. world history. >> and not fidel castro. may i say one more thing to close out the point that jim and i were making. is it even wonder then given what we've said about fidel castro's behavior especially on that last day, black saturday, is it any wonder that khrushchev was suddenly in a great hurry to
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settle the crisis peacefully? he did that by the next day. he could have gotten a better deal from kennedy especially with regard to the jupiters and turkey. khrushchev was in a hurry. he was desperately afraid that he was playing with fire. fidel had some responsibility for the shoot down of the u-2. fidel wrote the bizarre letter advocating a preemptive nuclear attack. and perhaps worst of all if it's possible, soviet commanders on the ground in cuba were losing command and control of their own forces. soviet forces were becoming more and more responsive to castro and the cubans and not to their own commanders. not to moscow. it's no wonder that the crisis ended when it did and we can thank fidel coastro for that. >> would you agree with jim's
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statements that khrushchev was the adult and castro was the hot headed teenager wanting the keys to the car? >> that was the perception certainly. >> i have never thought of fidel castro as a teenager. >> that was certainly not only khrushchev but the idea of leaving nuclear weapons in people's hands. he was the chief lieutenant and trouble shooter and who khrushchev sent to havana to mullify castro. all were greatly upset as to what they viewed as the collapse by the soviets. another document that we're publishing this week, the fashion icon of later years, told the yugoslav ambassador,
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they should have told americans if you fire at our ships, if you fire at our forces, we won't just use our tactical nuclear weapons. we'll nuke new york. that will be our response. and he expressed regret that the cubans didn't have control because we could have used them. i want to emphasize what tim said. i've been following evidence since the end of the cold war. if i was to summarize what they say about kennedy and khrushchev and missile crisis in one passage. kennedy and khrushchev look worse for their actions before the crisis. kennedy, because more has come out about the covert operations military planning, assassination plotting, that he approved against castro even though cuba wasn't a threat to national security and gave cubans and soviets reasonable fears even if it was not intended.
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both look worse for their actions before the crisis. both kennedy and khrushchev look better for how they managed to come to a common language to resolve the crisis peacefully. kennedy is very belligerent. he comes to the idea of let's start with the blockade to give time for final steps. khrushchev has the best time to react as tim and michael have written. when he's first informed that the americans have discovered the missiles on october 22nd, the reaction is belligerent. we won't stop our ships. he only has two days to change his mind. and to start backing off. and so it is really an amazing story of those two leaders going from irresponsibility not thinking through consequences of their action to finding a common language just in time. >> i wanted to -- not only those two leaders but talking about castro and assassination
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attempts. perhaps a question for michael and brian. what was the thinking behind those and what role did they play in setting conditions that led to this crisis? >> the assassination attempt actually -- i didn't think the cuban leadership was aware of the assassination attempts at this stage as far as i remember. the cuban leadership was aware of the campaign of sabotage against the castro regime. and it wasn't very effective. there was one of the americans that said it was only a psychological self in action for not doing anything. as far as cubans were concerned and as far as russian patrons were concerned, it was -- it sent the message that the americans were determined one way or the other to overthrow the castro regime in cuba. that was central to soviet and cuban decision making in the
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missile crisis. i just would like to add to one point that has been made about kennedy and khrushchev being the adults in the room. they made a lot of mistakes in bringing the world to this point. during the 13 days, i see them as being on the same side. graham, who you will hear from from in the next panel, he talked about rational actors. khrushchev and kennedy were both rational actors but there were a lot of irrational actors, too. it was this contest tweent the rational actors and irrational actors that is central to the cuban missile crisis. who can you put in the irrational actors? fidel was irrational. but there were those who stumbled into -- pilot who is didn't receive -- who the two leaders could not control. a whole lot of irrational things happening.
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thank god on the last day the two rational adults -- rational actors, the who adults in the room, managed to get control of this and bring it to an end. and that, they had something in common. >> i would say, though, it is very important because it makes the story much more colorful that both adults and adults, i think, do this on occasion, change their minds. and i would -- i think that it took kennedy a little longer to actually make up his mind to go with the quarantine than some would assume. it took him a whole week. and he wasn't even sure until the very end. and he became sure when the u.s. air force, and he asked the air force, can you in a surgical strike get rid of all of the missiles? they said, no. about a 75%, 80% chance. and then he asked, what would be the consequence if the soviets used their remaining missiles against the united states? oh, sir, about 30 million people might die in the southeastern portion of the united states.
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kennedy recognized, because by that point a number of the soviet missiles were operational in cuba. they had not been. he recognized as president of the united states he could not take such a risk. but for the entire week what nagged at him is, okay, i put in this blockade, but khrushchev could just keep the missiles there? how do i know the threat of war will be enough to move khrushchev because kennedy couldn't predict khrushchev was an adult in the room? and on the other side, khrushchev for the very first moments, and for the soviets it's not two weeks, it's only one week, khrushchev is really nervous and talking about using tactical nuclear weapons against an american attack. now, he changes his mind. to go back to mokoyan plays a very important role in softening
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nikita's top edges. mikoyan plays a role in trying to make policy toward soviet submarines more sensible. so khrushchev and kennedy are not just adults but human beings. and what's great about this crisis is that time worked on the side of rationality. time for everybody to think about the consequences of their action. and the world benefitted. >> can i add one point? we shouldn't have such a divide between rational and kremlin and fidel and irrational. like hutchfy bogart coming to the water, he was uninformed. he believed khrushchev shared his view, this was the first salvo of world war iii and simple military logic to get in the first blow.
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he didn't understand that much like dwight eisenhower wasn't going to send in the cavalry to save them from hungary in 1976 but reap maximum propaganda from it. the soviets were going to destroy moscow and, he was going to get maximum propaganda advantage and it would be an unfortunate outcome. but there was a not entirely irrational and john f. kennedy and nikita khrushchev were in what appears to be pretty irrational system of nuclear weapons and nuclear deterren deterrents -- >> he did -- >> to some extent. >> kennedy says it is completely crazy two men 8,000 miles apart are able to blow up the world. he thought that whole thing was completely crazy.
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the missile crisis led him to change his views, the rationality of war and he expresses that the next year at his speech at the american university. >> i think he believed it a lot before the cuban missile crisis but america was a hawkish country and kennedy was very sensitive to the fact that even privately, the evidence is overwhelming, by the way, because he told the soviets he felt this way, privately he thought this nuclear nonsense, this was nuclear nonsense. publicly, in america, if you don't seem strong, you don't use strong, hawkish language, blah, blah, blah, you seem weak as a president. what about presidents that understand dilemmas, that bd the world is complicated? kennedy did. the evidence is overwhelmingly but he couldn't say it public, michael, until after the cuban missile crisis because he got his chops during the cuban missile crisis. before the cuban missile crisis he was not known as a good
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foreign president. it was the cuban missile crisis that ail lus him to say at american university in june of 1963 what he really thinks about the cold war. >> and a year later for stanley kubrick to put out "dr. strange love". >> so he should think nikita khrushchev? >> absolutely. >> i knew it. >> i would to hear from brian about assassination attempts on castro, and then we'll come back to you, michael, i promise. >> i do get into that in some detail in castro's secrets, my new book. the most well developed, most serious, well planned assassination attempt occurred in 1963. a year after the missile crisis. there was a cuban, he's still alive, he lives miami, he lived
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in spain. i interviewed him in miami. he was the chosen assassin in the eyes of the cia and in the eyes, i think, of robert kennedy. kuvello was the ideal -- seen as at ideal assassin to kill castro after several other attempts had failed in earlier years, but kubello was the ideal candidate in their eyes. he had already killed in cold blod. he had murdered a batista colonel in 1976, savage attack at a havana nightclub. when i met this man, he showed me the car, the wound from his own war experience as a guerrilla. the scar ran down -- all of his shoulder to his bicep. he was a commonen dant. he was a friend of both castro
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brothers. he was the perfect candidate, the best one the cia ever had to assassinate fidel. he had a beach place that he used right next to one that fidel used. and all he had to do was get close enough to fidel to kill him. the cia recruited this man. he was known in the literature and declassified clliterature am-nash, that was the crypt for this man. he had a number of cia case officers in south america and in europe. he was trained in demolitions in france. he went to an american air base in the south of france. he was taught demolitions and explosives by the agency. and he met in october 1963 with one of the highest level officials of the cia. this man's name was desmond fits
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girl. dez traveled to europe, met in a safehouse with kubella and fitzgerald told him, i'm robert kennedy's personal representative in this meeting. about a month later the case officer, cia case officer working for desmond fitzgerald was in paris, in the same safe house, meeting the same rolando kublla, november 22, 1963, when they met. and sanchez, who i actually interviewed, retired cia case officer, fluent in spanish, he was meeting with kubella and giving him final instructions of the assassination for fidel castro. as they're getting to the point, sanchez reaches into his pocket, conveniently, i have it right here, he reaches into his pocket and he pulls out a pen. it's a papermate pen. but it's not really a pen.
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instead of an ink cartridge, there is a syringe inside of this papermate pen. sanchez tells kubella, all you have to do is fill the syringe with poison. the next time you see fidel, likely scratch him. the needle on the pen is that fine. a light scratch with the right poison may very well kill fidel. the moment is so dramatic because the phone rings in the cia safehouse and it's desmond fitzgerald. he's in washington. sanchez picks up the phone and his boss fitzgerald tells him, terminate the operation. president kennedy has just been killed in dallas. the remarkable coincidence of events. but fidel castro, i have to say one more thing, michael, fidel castro knew all of this. he knew that bobby kennedy had a role in it.
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he knew the cia was plotting his assassination because i demonstrate, i prove beyond any doubt in my new book that rolando kubell, the assassin was a double agent, working for fidel castro all along. >> so, this is just to repeat, you said, a year after the end of the cuban missile crisis. >> a year after the missile crisis. >> we don't want to exaggerate the peace, love and understanding that breaks out. >> the policy toward cuba is such that it would be simultaneously involved in plotting castro's assassination but also in a hidden mostly indirect dialogue with havana to explore the possibility of some sort of -- and peter is going to be telling this story in his forthcoming book, much of this is leaked out, including the fact that even as am-lash was being prepared for an assassination, there was an initiative through a reporter, lisa howard, to communicate a message and a french reporter
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who had just met with jfk was passing a message to fidel. i want to go back to the missile crisis. one of the least explored on the missile crisis, even new evidence is emerging this week from the kennedy library, one option from the beginning to the end of the 13 days was, should we try to get a message to fidel to basically communicate the following -- the united states by this point had broken diplomatic relations with cuba, there's no u.s. embassy in havana. the u.s. after the failure of the bay of pig hs done its best to isolate cuba diplomatically through the american states, imposed economic blockade and yet there was fitful communications. all through the 13 days there is the idea f we can get word to fidel, if you could kick the soviets out, everything else can flow from that in terms of being we will komd back into the hemisphere. and the whole story climaxed on that same october 27th. the u.s. passed a message,
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approved by excomm to brazilian government, on blank stationery, no letterhead, typed in portuguese saying type this personally, not because the cia is intercepting all of your cables but if you could send an emissary to fidel, present this as your proposal, we will back it up. it so happened the emissary was sent. met with fidel, came to the brazilian embassy but he didn't understand those words were approved by john f. kennedy. it shows how desperate kennedy was, at the same time he was plotting for an invasion, sending the message via bobby kennedy to compromise on turkish, going to the u.n., through that channel. he was also trying to send word to fidel. it just shows he didn't think any of it would work. we're all lucky we didn't get to find out what would have happened. >> right. there was a lot that was
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contradictory about u.s. policy and kennedy's own policy but he was firm on one thing, which is that he didn't have much time left. here i disagree with tim that says time was running in favor of the rational actors. that may have been the case at the beginning of the crisis but by the end of the crisis, by black saturday, i think things were getting out of control. and both kennedy and khrushchev realized this. they were in the position of abraham lincoln in the civil war who says, i don't control events. events control me. there were so many different things happening. we were moving to higher levels of nuclear alert. when you move to higher levels of nuclear alert, accidents can happen. nuclear missiles and warheads were moving around cuba. neither leader fully understood what was happening. and that is why they understood chaotic forces could take over and they had to bring it to an end. that's why they ended up giving a little more -- if they stuck it out for a few more days, they
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might have got the other side to back down more completely. but they wouldn't take that. neither of them were willing to take that risk. >> now, 13 days was just about right. my fear is it would have been a three-day crisis. if it would have been a three-day cries, it would have been a war. the challenge for each leader was to figure out the turning point. one thing you'll see f you go through and look at the records of both soviet and american decision-making is that when the soviets were afraid kennedy was about to attack, that's when khrushchev was looking for a diplomatic settlement. and then when the soviets got a little more confident that maybe kennedy was not that irrational, then they upped the ante and said, well, maybe we could get turkish missiles or maybe we can get them to close their base in pakistan or what have you. once both sides realized that
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war was nye, but it was their ability to make decisions and not go with the rash reaction. kennedy was really mad when those missiles were put in because he went public about how he said they wouldn't happen. khrushchev is nervous when he heard kennedy was about to make a speech because he didn't know what he was about to announce. this-h those men acted on their initial passions, the world would have been a different place in 1962. that's what i meant by time -- >> time is absolutely crucial because for months, even years afterwards, khrushchev would be attacked by castro for giving in too fast. khrushchev's defense always was, this was necessary to save the piece. peace. i am a man of peace because i saved it. the cubans would say, no, he could have slowed down the process, consulted, accepted with the continue of allowing -- getting cuban consent for u.n.
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or other inspections of the removal of the missiles but khrushchev felt he was losing control. the great unknown and unknownable is when bobby kennedy on saturday night seized to bring him, he is giving a de facto ultimatum but they would never -- >> can you clarify that. >> the soviet ambassador, he says we need a decision because an invasion is probable in 20 to 48 hours. khrushchev gives in even faster. i think it's highly likely, and i suspect they will agree, although i'm curious, that jfk was probably bluffing. he wouldn't have invaded. you could have tightened the embargo further to include further cuban goods, including petroleum and lubricants that kennedy having read "the guns of august", being so atune to what the cost of nuclear would have been, would have been unlikely to carry through. >> there's a myth i would like
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to -- my colleague david coleman has exploded it. did it a few years ago and did it again in a book. there's a myth about tactical nuclear weapons i would like to deal with because it's the answer to the question. the united states government knew there were tactical nuclear weapons with warheads on the island. that's what makes the u.s. military planning about cuba outrageous because they planned for the invasion of cuba as if there were going to be in a nuclear environment. kennedy -- this is not the first time kennedy encountered this kind of military thinking. a year earlier over laos, when he was considering the invasion of laos for reasons we don't have to go into today, this is important, he was told there was a nuclear dimension that was just declassified three years ago. >> chinese women. >> the u.s. government was planning a nuclear war with china as part of its handling of laos. it wasn't going to happen
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immediately, and presidents actually predelegate the use of nuclear weapons. it's a myth the president has to press a button. there are ways to tell the military in advance you may use nuclear weapons under the following circumstances. in 1961 jfk was asked by the military to give permission for them to use nuclear weapons against china as part of this laos business. he knew very well tactical nuclear weapons in the cold war had gotten out of hand. i don't doubt he understood in 1962 that if he let the u.s. military invade cuba, they would be in a nuclear environment just as they would have been in laos. so, i don't think it was a surprise to mcnamara. people have talked about how his memory has changed. it wasn't a surprise to mcnamara when he heard about this in 1992. he had just forgotten. it's not a surprise. so, that shows you the risk that the u.s. military would have taken without civilian loordship. something to keep in mind. >> the u.s. military knew there
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were frog missiles in cuba, which were nuclear capable. they didn't know nuclear warheads for these missiles were there. so it did come as a huge surprise to them 30 years later when they discovered that there were -- that there were actually tactical nuclear warheads in some of them, 98 of them. >> michael, the plan, the plan that was brought from joint chiefs of staff on the 259 or 26th of october included the assumption that american forces would be met by nuclear tactical -- >> we discovered the nuclear capable frogs on the 25th. once we knew that the soviets had nuclear capable missile there, we didn't know if they were equipped with nuclear weaponsness, but as soon as that happened the american commanders started demanding tactical nuclear weapons of their own. in fact, we were in the early stages of a nuclear war at this point. particularly on the 27th. >> briefly -- >> let me --
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>> the question i inflict on my poor undergrats in my u.s. foreign policy class is how dangerous was the cuban missile cries. they have to get into these kind of leads. i just want to make the broader point about so what, why is it so important? one of the questions is, what impact do nuclear weapons have in international affairs? because those cuban missile crisis say the glass is half full. rational actors stopped it from getting out of control and nuclear deterrents kept everyone at bay so therefore we can rely on nuclear deterrents in the indefinite future. people say so many things could have gone wrong, and as the phrase, we survived on blind, dumb luck. so the goal for the future should be nuclear abolition. someone says, that makes the world safer for conventional war. the arguments about should we
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rely on nuclear deterrents forever or try to get rid of nuclear weapons because sooner or later something is going to go wrong in a crisis, a lot of it hinges on how you read the history of the cuban missile crisis. >> the closing question i wanted to ask is lessons of the crisis today. you started to answer that but i would like to give brian, tim and michael also a chance to answer it as well. fidel castro was id oe sin accuratic, charismatic, unpredictable leader. if he had had nuclear weapons, which he aspired to november, which we know he wanted to keep the tactical nuclear weapons, and mikoyan -- khrushchev knew much better by then to let him have his own nuclear weapons. but if any leader like that today, say, the north koreans or the iranians, highly idiosyncratic militant, unpredictable leaders acquire
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nuclear weapons, how dangerous the world is going to be. mcnamara in -- what was it called in the video? "the shadow of war" -- "the fog of war," he says, we came that close to nuclear holocaust. and any other highly id oe sin accuratic leader like castro could make the world a very dangerous place. >> there are countries that will bluf they have more nuclear weapons or mruf they have more than they actually have in order to keep you away. if you react on the bluff, you can actually militarize a situation that doesn't require a military approach but a diplomatic one. look at saddam hussein. saddam hussein pretended to have nuclear weapons because he was afraid of us and he was afraid of other people in the middle
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east. he was doing the same thing that nikita khrushchev pretended to be. you're fearful of american power. our very existence is a powerful, successful country is threatening to other countries. whether we like it or not, we can be ourselves. that's one lesson which is, be careful of how you act on bluff. the second is, presidents should be allowed to koch myself on minor points. jfk was prepared to compromise. and he was prepared to think about what the other side needed for there to be a lasting settle many. that's a great talent in a president. i think one lesson is the same as the lesson kennedy himself drew during the missile crisis which is don't get into a war unless you're very sure about what is going to happen. in the case of a nuclear war, you can't be.
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so don't get into it unless you can explain in advance of to the american people what you're doing. and i think so that lesson was ignored subsequently in american history and i think it's still a lesson that we should remember today. >> i'm afraid our time is up so
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Today in Washington
CSPAN October 16, 2012 2:00am-5:59am EDT

News/Business. News.

TOPIC FREQUENCY Khrushchev 45, Cuba 31, U.s. 12, United States 9, Nikita Khrushchev 9, John F. Kennedy 7, Cia 6, Us 5, Sanchez 4, Dwight Eisenhower 3, Miami 3, Soviet Union 3, Bobby Kennedy 3, Moscow 2, Europe 2, U.n. 2, America 2, China 2, Washington 2, France 2
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